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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Business energy bills will increase by 13%

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Household prices will rise less than 5%, still much higher than inflation
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
We Energies customers will see their electric bills rise Jan. 1, with double-digit increases projected for the utility's biggest ratepayers.

The utility's largest energy-users - factories and other large businesses -can expect their bills to jump about 13% on average, said Brian Manthey, utility spokesman. Most other business customers can expect electric bills to rise 8% to 10%.

Residential customers can expect an increase of less than 5%.

By comparison, the rate of inflation increased 1.1% from a year ago, according to the latest report from the U.S. Labor Department.

The culprit behind the Jan. 1 increase is the loss of credits that were linked to the sale of the Point Beach nuclear power plant several years ago. Those credits, which have expired, helped mask a substantial rate increase in 2008.

Since 2008, We Energies has refunded more than $700 million to Wisconsin customers from the $1 billion sale of the Point Beach nuclear plant to NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of FPL Group Inc. of Juno Beach, Fla.

For business customers in particular, the credits have helped offset increases on their bills, even as the utility has received approval to raise rates to compensate for higher fuel costs and power plant construction.

Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, said his members who are We Energies customers face increases in the range of 12% to 15%, although one energy-intensive firm faces a 20% increase.

"Most of our members have been aware of it for some time, but that doesn't mean it's not going to hurt when those credits come off," he said. "There's going to be a sting; there's no doubt about it."

Stuart was lobbying the state Public Service Commission to reject a big rate increase three years ago when the commission also authorized the credits to start flowing back to customers.

"That's truly the underlying problem, that the increase in 2008 was 17%," Stuart said. "And the credits have been masking that, until now."

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